Written by Bridget Conry, Director of Brand Experience, resident herbalist and lead product developer at Ceres Natural Remedies & Champlain Valley Dispensary.
Pictured above : Basil, Oregano, and Rosemary starts from
Claussen's Florist, Greenhouse & Perennial Farm in Colchester, VT.
The COVID-19 pandemic has a lot of us thinking about how we can alter our daily routines in order to improve our baseline health and build immunity. Plants can be powerful allies in this process, both in our diets and in our medicines. If you are looking to herbal remedies for the first time, you can quickly feel overwhelmed by the amount of information available. There are so many herbs to choose from! Don’t be discouraged. Start with familiar foods and culinary herbs to get the ball rolling. Most may already be in your kitchen and if not, can be easily found at your grocery store or local co-op.
The most important part about making changes in your life is to find the fun in exploring new ways and setting small, incremental goals that are achievable. Find early success by boosting or adding the suggestions below to recipes in your current weekly menu.
General Guidelines for Getting Started: Add more plants to your diet – find a place for them in every meal. Drink plenty of fluids (preferably water). Proper hydration is critical for all of our bodily functions. Avoid processed foods – these are usually nutrient deficient. Consider reducing the amount of meat, coffee, alcohol and/or dairy in your diet. All of these can increase inflammation when consumed in excess. Shift directions gradually, as swift changes in consumption cause stress by themselves. When possible, I always recommend adding good things to your diet or health regimen before subtracting unhealthy choices. When your body/mind/spirit begin to feel the positive effects of good nutrition, herbal support and increased exercise, the negative habits naturally begin to fall away. Much easier than going cold turkey!
All of the suggested foods & culinary herbs below
are readily available in stores right now:
Citrus: Lemons & limes are especially beneficial, but oranges & grapefruits are good too. All are valuable sources of vitamin C and help to maintain healthy pH within your body. Eat oranges and grapefruits whole so that you get all of the fiber as well. Squeeze fresh lemon or lime juice over vegetables or add to hot or room temperature water every day. Better yet, do both!
Alliums: Onions and garlic are both powerhouse anti-microbials. Include them in your cooking as much as possible. Onions are very supportive of the lungs. If you are experiencing respiratory congestion, make a warm onion poultice for your chest to help expectorate mucus that may be settling there.
Ginger: A trio of benefits! Good for the digestion, warming to chase a chill, and diaphoretic, which means it encourages sweating. Perspiration is one of the ways our body rids itself of toxins and naturally manages a fever. Use ginger in your cooking and replace your morning cup o' joe with a warm ginger, lemon and honey infusion (tea).
Mushrooms: "Culinary" mushrooms like shiitake, maitake, & oyster have a long history of medicinal use, specifically in stimulating the immune system. Add them to your stir fries and your omelets. Homemade mushroom broths are a fantastic choice. If you are eating meat, this is a good place to add some beef or chicken bones.
Fresh Herbs: Rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil & sage; all are rich in nutrients and anti-microbial & anti-oxidant by nature. Each also has its own affinity for certain systems in the body, with thyme having specificity for the lungs. Plus, they add wonderful flavor to your recipes. Be generous in your use of fresh herbs, as you need to use more of them than dried herbs. Fresh herbs have the added benefit of retaining their aromatics, which most dried herbs have lost. Just smelling them gives you a boost! Keeping them handy – right next to the stove – will increase your likelihood of using them. Store them upright in mason jars or glasses with just enough water to keep them drinking. Add any of them to your ginger & lemon tea in the morning.
Spices: Spices are concentrated sources of anti-oxidants. Many work to improve digestion and increase circulation due to their warming qualities. Good choices that you probably already have in your spice rack: curry, cinnamon, cayenne and cumin. Turmeric is also a must have for its powerful anti-inflammatory effect. Spices are strong in more ways than one, and should be used with restraint. They can be irritants if overdone. Adding a little more to your favorite recipes is a pleasant way to reap their benefits.
Probiotics: A healthy immune system begins in the gut with a well functioning digestive system. Here, probiotics help to restore your microbiome, or body bacteria. It is said that up to 80% of your immune system is in your microbiome, which is located throughout your body, not just your gut. Good daily food choices: miso, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi or yogurt.
Last but not least; CBD: Bring a little CBD into your kitchen. Try a CBD infused Organic Hemp Seed Oil. Hemp seed oil is a beneficial addition to your pantry because of its concentrated nutritional profile. It is a complete source of protein (containing all 9 essential amino acids) and is abundant with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals (most notably vitamin E and B-complex, magnesium, iron and zinc). A suggested use for our particular CBD infused Hemp Seed Oil is to drop 1ml of the CBD infused hemp seed oil (20mg CBD) on top of avocado toast with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, or add to a green smoothie.